Safe Boating Course


CHAPTER 4: Emergency Preparedness

Capsizing and Falls Overboard: Response

If you’re operating a boat and a passenger falls overboard, here’s what to do:

Step 1: Immediately slow down and stop the boat. 

Step 2: Quickly throw something buoyant, like a life buoy or a lifejacket, to the person overboard. This will help them stay afloat and mark their location in the water if they go under. 

Step 3: Assign someone in your boat to keep the overboard person in sight at all times. Have them continually point to the person’s location in the water.

Step 4: Carefully position the boat close enough to make contact with the overboard person. Keep them on the operator side of the boat.

Step 5: Throw a buoyant heaving line, or a life buoy attached to your boat, to the person overboard.

Step 6: Pull the overboard person to your boat and get them back on board using the boat’s boarding ladder. If your boat doesn’t have a ladder, you can drape a heavy rope or chain across the stern to use as a makeshift step.

It’s important to consider that in most instances, the overboard person will climb back into the boat from the stern. To avoid a second emergency, turn off your engine.